horror movie

Wicked Wednesday: Within (2016)

I rarely read reviews before I watch movies for this blog. I didn’t make an exception for Within, but I really wish I had. This was truly one of the more confounding films I’ve watched in a long, long time.

At the surface, this is very the set-up for typical haunted house trope fest. A family move into a new home in suburbia. There’s the oblivious dad, the hot new mom, and the irrtated “bad girl” daughter. They immediately begin noticing strange things in the house, particularly the daughter Hannah. And of course they eventually discover that a family died there by murder-suicide. They very much are like the new family: two parents and a daughter.

Hannah is sentenced by her father, John, to cleaning out the pervious family’s things out of their garage. She begins to unpack their lives and learn more things about them. She learns from a neighbour that the previous family had simply disappeared.

Meanwhile, she’s also battling creep ‘neighbour’ Ray, a locksmith. He offers to change the locks on the family’s house, but instantly creeps out mother Melanie too much.

Ray is eventually outseted as a squater in the next-door house. As revenge, he perves on Hannah (who is VERY much underage). But before he can do anything, Ray is killed off by a ghoul-ish like boy. Imagine the cavemen from those old Geico commercials.

While Hannah’s boyfriend visits, he studies the photos of murdered family. In one of the family outside the house, he notices unusual: a boy in one of the windows. As he’s being killed off, Hannah goes back to the family’s things to do more research. She eventually learns that the first family had a son.

This son had agoraphobia. So obviously, he’s crazy and LIVES IN THE CRAWL SPACE OF THE WALLS. The family attempt to take on the man, and the police eventually shoot someone. Of course it isn’t the agoraphobic caveman, but one of his prisoners.

He then gleefully picks off all the family members. Even Hannah, who is also creeped on repeatedly.

I mean, makes sense to me. Agoraphobia = crazy people who live in walls. Crazy people who look like drowned, drooling ghouls!

Horror movies aren’t always the most…represntitve of mental illness. But this is not a 1970s shocker. This was made in 2016. But it’s not its idiotic grip on mental health that’s the most eye-roll inducing about htis movie.

This is a story you’ve seen a million times. And it hasn’t been done well here. There’s no suspense. It’s by-the-numbers, pervy and just…boring. What’s the point of creating something when you refuse to bring anything new to the table?

But I would have known all of this if I would have just checked IMDB first. Not sure if that’s a lesson to really take away. Though I’m not really sure I can stomach another one of these.

Advertisements

Wicked Wednesday: Witchcraft (1988)

When I saw that many of the films from the Witchcraft series had been added to Amazon Prime, I thought, “Finally. This is my moment.”

I had been wanting to watch this series for ages. Or, at least I thought I did. It took me until about only 10 minutes into this movie to realise that I was confusing Witchcraft with Witchboard. You know, I movie I already watched.

But despite being a complete idiot, I rather enjoyed Witchboard for what it was. Which is simply a mash up of Rosemary’s Baby and Tommy Wiseau’s acting skill. Throw in a dash of witchcraft Satanism and you’re all set to go!

Grace Churchill (a Polish immigrant, which is obvious from her name) gives birth to a baby boy, seemingly entering him into a world of bliss. Grace and her husband, John, move in with John’s mother in order for Grace to get help with the baby.

When Grace arrives at her mother-in-law Elizabeth’s house, she increasingly has visions like she had during her labor. She often sees images of a couple being burned at the stake for being witches. She also begins to feel unwell, and is given tea made by Elizabeth.

But Grace is a plucky Pole, and continues on with her normal life. At her post-baby-having baby shower, she shows her friend Linda around the house. They go to an area of the house that’s off limits to Grace, and they’re stopped by Elizabeth’s butler, Ellsworth.

The two women go back downstairs where they greet Grace’s priest. He turns to the baby, William, and sees visions of flames around the baby’s cot. He flees to the toilet where he’s sick. He then sees the vision again in a mirror before fleeing the home.

One day after the party, Grace manages to sneak into the “off limits” part of the home. She finds a series of unfinished rooms, including one with a large mirror hanging on the wall. When she looks into the mirror, she sees a vision of the priest hanging himself.

Later, the event happens in reality. The priest hangs himself outside of Grace’s house, his face disfigured.

Grace takes Linda to the off-limits room and shows her the room. But Linda isn’t convinced of her friend’s claims, believing that Grace is only upset about the lost of her priest.

Grace begins to become more unsettled living in her mother-in-law’s home. She pleads with John to let her leave, and he eventually admits that their home burnt down nearly a week ago. Upset with her husband, Grace tries to leave the home with baby William to see the ruined home. But Elizabeth convinces Grace to leave William behind.

When Grace reaches her house, she see that it has been ruined by a fire. But when she speaks to an older woman outside the home, she learns that the house had only burnt down the day before.

Grace returns to Elizabeth’s home and finds that it’s empty. When she goes into the off-limits room, she has more visions of the witches. She faints from her visions and wakes again with bandages around her wrists.

Linda visits Grace, and tries to sooth her friend, whom she believes has tried to take her own life. Linda agrees to stay the night and keep Grace company. In the night, Grace dreams that Linda is missing and she instead finds a chest of items in a room.

In the morning, Grace discovers that she’s holding onto the cross she grabbed in her dream. The same cross the priest gave her, and the same cross supposedly sitting at Linda’s home.

The two women explore more of the off-limits part of the home. When they split up, Linda’s life is swiftly ended, leaving Grace all alone. She’s swiftly knocked out and wakes up to find herself tied up.

Grace soon discovers that her husband and mother-in-law are the ones responsible. They tell her that they are reincarnated witches, waiting for their son to be born into the world again. With the help of the butler, the witches are killed off.

But while that’s the ending, I feel like I’m left with more questions than I have answers for. Why did the butler work for Elizabeth if he planned on killing her anyway? Is Grace a witch? How can she do all of these magical things? Or is it just Elizabeth and John being massive witchy jerks? Also, can I dress like Linda and get away with it in 2019?

Linda is my kindred spirit. Shame she wasn’t the Final Girl.

The acting and dialogue in Witchcraft is at least at a level of enjoyably bad. If you can get through the long, meandering scenes, it’s worth a watch. Though I’m not quite sure if I can stomach 15 sequels. It’s kind of difficult to wrap my mind around how this movie spawned so many sequels. But I suppose there could be worse things in this world.

So it was a mistake to watch Witchcraft, but it was certainly a happy mistake.

Wicked Wednesday: The Monster Club (1981)

If I had to sum up The Monster Club in one word, it’d be “goofy”. It’s simultaneously serious and silly, creating a real mix of emotions and feel throughout the entire movie.

And when it’s an anthology, that’s to be expected to a certain extent.

This 1981 British film was based on the work of author Ronald Chetwynd-Hayes. He’s injected into his own story by becoming one of the main characters in the framing story. Chetwynd-Hayes (played by John Carradine) bumps into a stranger one night, and becomes a midnight snack for a vampire.

But the vampire (Vincent Price) doesn’t finish the author off, but rather invites him to the Monster Club: a swingin’ club that, well, has monsters in it. The author is slightly alarmed, but is met with constant hospitality. The two hunker down at a table and the vampire, Eramus, begins to tell three stories – each about a different monster.

The first, “The Shadmock” follows a poor and greedy couple as they seek ways to make money. The woman, Angela, answers an ad in the newspaper from a man looking for someone to catalogue his antiques. When Angela first visits, she’s frightened away by the man’s face, but her boyfriend insists she return.

Angela reluctantly returns and takes the job working for Raven. She slowly learns about all his wealth, and the pair become closer. Raven eventually proposes to Angela. Her boyfriend again encourages her to follow through with it for the sake of money. Angela tells Raven that she accepts his proposal, and he suggests that they have a masquerade to celebrate.

At the ball, Angela is discovered trying to rob Raven. The man, now revealed to be a “Shadmock”, releases a high-pitched whistle. The smouldering corpse of Angela returns home, much to the terror of her boyfriend.

In “The Vampires”, the second tale of the night, a young boy struggles through life being bullied and slightly neglected. His father sleeps all day, and he rarely spends any time with the boy. But one day, when the boy is downtrodden, his mother tells him that his father is a count.

The boy goes to school and brags to his bullies. While he’s pushed down again, he’s rescued by a black-clad man (Donald Pleasence). He talk to the man, who begins to ask more questions about the boy’s father.

Eventually, the boy discovers that his father is a vampire. But before he can do anything about it, the black-clad man arrives with his crew. He reveals that they are vampire hunters, and then promptly stakes the father in the heart. But before the vampire can die, he bites the vampire hunter, turning him as well.

The other vampire hunters kill their leader and flee the house. It’s then revealed that the father vampire had been wearing a stake-proof vest all along.

The third story follows more strange monsters, “The Ghouls”. While just as deadly, the Ghouls appear more human than the Shadmock and keep more regular hours than a Vampire.

A film director heads to a small village while scouting for movie locations. When he arrives, he finds that the locals are both creepy and unhelpful. He tries to leave the the village, but discovers that his car has been tampered with. The locals then force him into a room in the inn on an upper level.

The director then meets a young girl, who explains that she is only half-human, unlike the others in the village. Everyone else there is a ghoul and likes to feast on human flesh. The girl also explains that the ghouls cannot go on holy ground. She then helps the director escape the inn and head into the village church.

There, the director learns the truth about the village’s history. It was overrun with ghouls who mated with humans (presumably dead ones). The girl arrives at the church, and they both try to escape to the outside world together.

The girl eventually dies, but the director flees to the motorway and waves down police officer. The officer offers to give him a ride, but the director soon finds himself back in the village. There to be a snack for the ghouls’ leaders.

After Eramus’s stories, he invites the author to become an honorary member of the Monster Club. While the author is resistant, Eramus explains that the most terrifying monster of all is the human.

The Monster Party is certainly an odd one. I couldn’t get through the first twenty minutes last week without turning it off. It’s tone is inconsistent, and it’s distracting.

There are some scenes in the club with bands playing. But even that doesn’t quite hit either the “this is excellent” or “this is so bad it’s good” marks.

If the film had committed to which tone it wanted, it might have been more successful. But overall, it’s just right in the middle.

Wicked Wednesday: Mr Jones (2013)

Found footage films are pretty “Marmite”. Some people love them, others hate them. For me, I think the bigger question while watching found footage movies is why? Very few stories are enhanced this way. Do certain stories need to be found footage? Can the story be better told in a more traditional way?

In most cases, the found footage style is a waste. A ploy to get asses in seats.

Mr Jones is one of the more tough ones to figure out. For one, it falls into the category of “these people are way too attractive to be actual humans”. Think of all the reasons why Blair Witch failed and Blair Witch Project succeeded: are your actors believable? One of the best examples of this is Bad Ben (you’ve watched it already, haven’t you?). But I always find it difficult to enjoy a found footage movie when everyone in the movie looks way too good too be all together in the same setting.

The premise is on the lofty side too. A young couple decide to go out into the wilderness to stay in a cabin for a few months. It’s their sort of “reconnecting” opportunity as their relationship has been going through a rough patch.

Husband Scott is a documentary maker, trying to get work done out in the wild. But he quickly realises that he has no point in mind for his new film, and it doesn’t help matters when he quits taking his medication.

When his wife, Penny, finds out about his self-treatment, she becomes upset. The couple continue to be on the rocks until one night. A group of birds attack the house. And the following day, Scott’s backpack (containing the car keys) is stolen by a hooded figure.

He and Penny eventually track down the figure and find a home filled with strange scarecrow-type figures straight out of the Blair Witch’s house. But while Scott becomes paranoid, Penny becomes absolutely jubilant. When they return to their cabin, she informs Scott that the man they followed is “Mr. Jones” – a Banksy-esque artist whose work is worth millions as the artists himself stays anonymous.

The couple quickly decide to make money off their find and focus Scott’s documentary on Mr. Jones. Scott goes to New York where he begins collecting interviews with various art collectors, experts and the people who have received pieces from Mr. Jones unsolicited. The collectors love Mr. Jones. The experts love exploring the artist’s use of protective charms as his motifs. And the people who’ve received the art? Well, they’re haunted by a nightmare.

Penny, meanwhile, stays in the country where she bumps into Mr. Jones. She notices that the ‘artist’ wears a creepy burlap sack mask. But the man seems harmless.

When Scott returns, the couple decide to step up their game and break into Mr. Jones’s house again. Scott leaves Penny outside to keep watch as he goes through a hatch. He finds an endless maze-like tunnel. He eventually comes across a room, set up in a shrine-style manner filled with the scarecrows.

Scott sees one of the figures, a baby, and steals it from its spot. Meanwhile, Penny comes across Mr. Jones again. When Scott finds her, she doesn’t seem to remember what happened to them.

What follows is a seemingly endless second half of the movie. A little like that tunnel system ol’ Jones has. The couple see doplegangers, dream-like nightmares and other pointless stuff!

It’s a movie that started off with a fairly great idea and plummeted into the world of We Didn’t Finish the Script.

In many way Mr Jones struggled. And it wasn’t just the ending (and the ending was loooooong).

While the use of the high-end cameras was neatly explained away, it just felt silly. The viewer isn’t stupid and can see right through the flimsy premise. There really was no need for the dual perspective cameras, which much of the ‘footage’ relies on. And there was really no need to be filming themselves. Scott wanted to make a nature documentary, why was he filming arguments with his wife? I mean, who edited this footage anyway? Penny?

I also found it distracting that the characters didn’t really stay in character. Scott goes off his medication, but it’s quickly forgotten after the first few minutes. If it was alluded to again, it was way too subtle. And if you were to ask me to characterise Penny, I couldn’t. One minute she’s adventurous, the next she’s boo-hooing because she’s walking in the dark.

Mr Jones will probably hit the right chord with a certain type of person. But unfortunately, I was not one of them. It’s really a found-footage movie that needed to do a lot more soul searching.

Wicked Wednesday: Christmas Presence/Why Hide? (2018)

Well.

Watching this was like getting a turd in my stocking. How nice.

Christmas Presence is a 2018 British horror film, currently marketed as a Shudder original. With

A group of friends gather to celebrate Christmas in a manor house after the death of McKenzie’s father. The cast of characters are certainly memorable enough. They get festive nearly right away in the most British way possible: by getting wasted.

The banter between the friends (or frenemies, not sure which one they really are) is pretty enjoyable as they all settle in together.

Eventually, flamboyant Hugo decides he wants to get his friends to test out his new magnetic, absorbent underwear. The group reluctantly agree and get more drunk.

A montage of partying and a fat-shaming later, Hugo is lured out into the snow along where he is killed by a shadowy entity.

The following morning, the remaining friends are visited by the caretaker. He hits at something in McKenzie’s past. She later admits to her friends that her sister disappeared when they were younger. She was never found, and McKenzie always felt guilty because she was there when she disappeared.

The group then notice (speaking of disappearances) that Hugo isn’t around. They begin to search for him, but eventually return home without any luck.

New Age Anita insists that she put McKenzie under hypnosis to discover what happened to her sister. But before McKenzie can make a breakthrough, she’s woke up by an interruption. Anite begins to worry, as coming out of hypnosis could confuse the girl (or something).

And McKenzie does begin to suffer. Though whether it has anything to do with being hypnotized is slightly debatable. She sees Hugo in a wardrobe, and he tells her she needs to tie the others up because they’re plotting against them. She believes ‘Hugo’ and takes Jo’s shotgun to get the friends to obey her.

But it’s all for naught as the spell is quickly broken about two seconds later, and they’re all untied.

They begin to learn that they’re being stalked by something that appears as their biggest fears. One is killed by a fold-out bed. Another by…a pantomime actor? I don’t know. It all gets beyond the point of caring, anyway.

I won’t spoil the ending, of course. Mostly because I don’t completely get it (or I do, but I’d rather wish I didn’t).

Christmas Presence has been helped out by the title change. It certainly gets anyone looking for a Christmas horror movie to watch it. I wouldn’t stop anyone who wanted to watch it from watching it…but I certainly wouldn’t encourage it.

McKenzie is very difficult to like as a main character. She’s a TERF, for one, which makes her instantly unlikable in my eyes (there is a not-so-fine line between a character meant to be unlikable and one that’s constantly irritating). I think she was meant to be liked, which was the even more confusing part. It’s difficult to get invested in a character if you really are just staring at your watch until they die.

Actors Orla Cottingham and Elsie Bennett were actually the best part of the film as the story’s lesbian couple. It was clear that the script was initially hinting at something with Bennett’s character Sam, but it never bothered fleshing it out.

But that was probably the biggest issue with film in general. It could have been much more ambitious, and you can see the effort trickling away throughout. Sometimes wanting to do too much can be your downfall.

Wicked Wednesday: Home Sweet Home (1981)

Last year, I had the, er, pleasure of watching Blood Freak for a Thanksgiving-tinted horror movie. It was a bizarre tale in what happens when you take too many drugs (or rather are drug tested on).

That movie was absolutely nuts but kind of fun. So this year I thought I’d test my luck again with the Thanksgiving Day-set Home Sweet Home. Weirdly, this is also about a drug-fuelled maniac but there are no feathers or genetic mutations involved.

Kill Jay Jones is an escaped mental patient who killed his parents. There’s nothing else that you’ll learn about him, and this is apparently not very relevant any way. He hits an old lady with his stolen station wagon and heads on out to a ranch in the isolated countryside.

The ranch is owned by record company owner Harold. He, his girlfriend and his children live together there with a tenant, Scott. For Thanksgiving, Harold brings the family and friends around for a meal.

But things soon go wrong with the power is shut off, and the group discover that there is NO WINE. So the group split off: Harold’s girlfriend Linda and her friend go for wine, Harold goes for more gas for the generator.

Of course ol’ Jay gets to this lot first and kills them. But first not without long, meandering scenes like the women getting lost, then pulled over by police. Or Harold siphoning gas from Jay’s stolen station wagon.

The rest of the guests are also picked off one-by-one in relatively unimaginative ways. Plus by the time they all sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, the night is so dark I can’t make anything out.

One of the more interesting characters is “Mistake” – Harold’s Kiss Army son (who looks rather like Monkey from The Adicts). He carries around a guitar and portable amp just so he can harass people. In a rather strange scene, one woman, Maria, is taken by Jay by knifepoint. Mistake follows, pleading for her to be kept safe. The dumbass doesn’t take the guitar off, though. Which, I don’t know, if in a life-or-death situation I’d say fuck the guitar and use it as a weapon to wield against the GIANT ESCAPED MURDERER.

But he gets electrocuted later so I guess it’s fine?

Anyway, the last third of the film is really rather boring. The whole thing is boring, but this third is relatively more boring. Scott and his girlfriend, along with a little girl named Angel, hole up inside the house. Scott walks around the house a bit and sits back down to hug the girls. Then he gets back up and walks around again to sit back down.

This is truly some incredible and suspenseful stuff here.

But really, the movie suffers too much from being so dark. Thankfully the final scene is during the morning hours. That way I can actually see what’s happening. Not that’s really worth it. You could probably guess the ending with your eyes closed anyway.

It must be pretty difficult to make a Thanksgiving horror movie. The best ‘movie’ to capture the ambiance is probably Eli Roth’s fake trailer for Thanksgiving in Grindhouse. That at least has scenes with turkey in it. I’m not sure if this one did. Mostly because I couldn’t make anything out on the screen.

So to call this a ‘Thanksgiving horror movie’ is probably being really loose with the term. It’s just set on Thanksgiving. And they cook…sometimes. But there’s really no mood or atmosphere and it’s just terrible boring…

Which, actually, was a lot like the Thanksgivings from my childhood. So I stand corrected.

Wicked Wednesday: Mausoleum (1983)

 

After all the bullshit that happened State-side these past few weeks, I really wanted to watch a horror film with a badass lady. So I put in a lot of research and did my readying. I had everything all picked out, but what did I do?

Abandon everything last minute because I couldn’t be bothered to pay £2 to watch the film.

Instead I watched Mausoleum. A film that lacks in mausoleum screentime, and is a serious mess.

The film revolves around Susan, a girl whose mother died when she was only 10. After the burial, Susan runs away from her Aunt Cora, and sees a mausoleum with a bit of dancing smoke in front of it. The young girl enters the building and becomes possessed as she approaches a coffin with the name “NOMAD” over it.

Twenty years later, Susan is a grown woman with a husband. She seemingly has a great life, but her aunt remains skeptical. Cora reaches out to a psychiatrist, Dr Simon (Norman Burton doing his best Dr Loomis). She gives him a family history that is contained in her father’s diary, then blabs about a demon. But Dr Simon insists that nothing is wrong with Susan, whom he has known her whole life.

But of course there is something wrong with Susan (note: this would be a much better title). She’s possessed by a demon. As the first born girl, she was destined to become a demon’s puppet.

To put things simply, Susan spends most of the movie getting her tits out then killing men by setting them on fire or blowing up their heads. There’s a super irrelevant series of scenes about some weird painting that she steals. She even tears poor Aunt Cora in half.

Susan’s husband Oliver is really stupid. He panics every time his wife does something. Oh my wife is sitting in a rocking chair! Let’s not talk to her – CALL THE DOCTOR IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FUCKING NIGHT!

After being dragged into the mess, Dr Simon begins researching and reads up on the Nomad family history. He calls in a friend who insists that Susan is possessed. She somehow knows that the only way to break the curse is to put the “crown of thorns” onto Susan’s head.

He succeeds with little effort. Then drags Susan to the mausoleum to put the crown onto the demon’s head? Again? I don’t know. It didn’t really make any sense to me. I think there was even meant to be a twist ending. The gardener she killed is actually a man who is meant to look over the mausoleum? Fuck if I should know.

Mausoleum wasn’t the so-bad-it’s-good kind of fun I was hoping for. That acting is pretty terrible (that poor actress playing Susan). The plot doesn’t make much sense. It’s mostly an excuse to make an actress strip so she can kill people.

Either way, I think there is a lesson to be learned in this: if you put all the hard work into something, you should probably fucking follow through with it. When you take the easy (ie free) way out, you’re stuck watching this.